sanity will prevail and that all those suffering on account of the terrible conflict in Ukraine will find the comfort and resources they need.
JESUS THE HOLY FOOL
Alternative wisdom resounds throughout the parables. The Parable of the Good Samaritan, for example, is Jesus' answer to the question, "Who is my neighbor?" In contrast to the priest and Levite who represent the perspective, "Don't get involved!" the Samaritan symbolizes those who, seeing beyond differences of ethnic background, class, and religion, can therefore embrace "the other." The Samaritan not only loves his neighbor -- in this case, a Jew-- but loves him as himself. While the priest and Levite seem to live out of a "play safe" philosophy, the Samaritan extends himself beyond the boundaries of commonsense for the sake of "the Other."
The Samaritan has a healthy spirituality grounded in love of God and not merely in outward observances. His willingness to reach out to the unfortunate victim of brutality indicates his ability to see as God sees, that is, with unreserved compassion; he doesn't stop to ask what the Law asks him to do or what commonsense dictates, but instead follows his heart. The priest and Levite, on the other hand, are careful to avoid ritual contamination by keeping as far away from their brother Jew as possible. They keep their hands clean, so to speak, but their hearts are impervious to his plight; by observing laws regarding purity, that is, those prohibitions against touching a corpse, they break the higher law of Love. Even though they are uncertain whether the traveler is dead or alive, they avoid him all the same, "just in case." What image of God, we must wonder, would prompt this distortion of priorities? How do they feel "justified" before their God when they harden their hearts against one in need?
Only those with a secure sense of self have the religious imagination to put "compassion" before "rules." The Samaritan, unlike the priest and Levite, is able to act decisively because he is accustomed to responding out of charity instead of fear. There is, of course, no textual evidence to support this, but an extraordinary gesture of love does not happen in isolation; rather, it is typical of a person's response to life as a whole. Given the great care and tenderness which the Samaritan extends to the injured man, it would seem he is generous by nature. He acts as one who knows himself and who recognizes the common humanity he shares with others.
While the priest and Levite are merely religious functionaries with all the titles and privileges that accompany this, the Samaritan is, ironically, driven by the Jewish spirit of kavanah or inward piety. In this way, he --a Samaritan-- fulfills the twin Judaic requirements of loving God and neighbor, while the representatives of the Jewish establishment observe the letter of the Law but fail in love.
Try my Spiritual Self-Assessment Tool! After you take the Quiz, you will automatically receive a computer-generated analysis of your strengths and "growing edges." https://assess.coach/eastewart/
Please note that I offer
Writing Coaching/ Editing, Life Coaching, Spiritual Direction, and Retreats.
Wednesdays, July 6th-August 10th, 2022; 6:00-7:30 p.m. EST
Greetings, SBT Readers!
One of the most harrowing media commentaries about the July 4th Highland Park carnage debunked the theory that the suspect was a loner. That Robert Crimo III had grown up in a volatile household as a neglected social misfit was clearly part of his history; however, according to one cyber terror analyst, at the time of the massacre he was not "lonely" -- in fact, with thousands of followers on YouTube and Spotify alone, Crimo had raked in a sizable income from millions of downloads of his graphic videos and photos. Anyone who followed him would most likely share his views and his obsession with violence. Far from being a "lone wolf," the aspiring rapper seems to have espoused alt-right beliefs and had even "scoped out" a synagogue before his onslaught on the parade.
What does this mean? In effect, Robert Crimo III is just the current face of a growing movement of violence-loving, gun worshipping hate groups. Just as Crimo lived in "plain view," so his cohorts also live in "plain view," providing ample signs and symptoms of their disturbed minds. Just as Crimo was able to legally purchase deadly weapons, so those of the same ilk also have access to their arsenals of choice. And just as his family members and associates did nothing to protect either him or society, so the families and associates of other "unlonely wolves" will also turn a blind eye.
The United States has become one of the most violent nations on earth. We are a democracy in which it is too dangerous to go shopping, or to a place of worship, or to school, or to the beach, or to a parade, or to a concert -- or, as in the case of 5 year old Khamaya Donelson, even to have an ice cream treat! In addition to a total ban on civilian access to assault weapons, we need, as a nation, to take stock of our values and ask what our children need to become healthy, peace-abiding, productive members of society. This is a question that every community needs to address; it is also the most important question facing our government today.
A scholar of the Law stood up to test Jesus, saying,
"Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
Jesus replied, "What is written in the Law?
How do you interpret it?"
The scholar said,
"You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your being,
with all your strength,
and with all your mind,
and your neighbor as yourself."
Jesus replied, "You have answered correctly;
do this and you will live."
But because he wished to justify himself,
the scholar asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
"And who is my neighbor?" That question was the prompt behind one of the most loved of Jesus' parables, "The Parable of the Good Samaritan." The question, of course, was a trap. The Scholar of the Law had already tried to trip Jesus up and had failed spectacularly-- in fact, Jesus had turned the tables on him, making him answer his own question. To the Scholar's shame, instead of humiliating Jesus, he ended up passing his own test and being praised for doing so! This irony could not have escaped notice, but unable to admit defeat, the Scholar persisted: "And who is my neighbor?" He got more than he bargained for.
If he imagined that Jesus would incriminate himself by mentioning undesirable classes of people such as Romans and tax collectors, or by leaving out the supposedly "righteous" citizens, he was disappointed. Instead, Jesus told a story full of reversals: in his parable, the religious "elite" failed in their basic duties, crossing the road instead of tending to the wounded traveler who was, most likely, their fellow countryman. For them, preserving their ritual purity was more important than checking to see if the traveler was dead or alive, for according to the Law, any contact with a corpse would have made them "unclean" for seven days (Lev 21:11; Num 19:11). In contrast, it was a Samaritan traveler who stopped to tend to the injured man; ironically, the Samaritans and Jews of that era despised each other. Nevertheless, moved with compassion, the Samaritan did not shy away from physical contact with the man, binding up his wounds and lifting him onto his own donkey.
"And who is my neighbor?" Unable to utter the hated name "Samaritan," the Scholar of the Law was forced to publicly admit that the "one who showed mercy" acted as true neighbor while the religious elites did not.
In our first reading (Dt 30:10-14), Moses points out that God's Law is neither up in the sky nor across the sea; nor is it mysterious and remote. On the contrary, it exists in the human heart, fully accessible to all those who heed God's voice. This Law is not just a set of rules and obligations, but, rather, a path of love, compassion and integrity. It is a "way of being" exemplified by the Good Samaritan who spared neither effort, nor expense on behalf of his Jewish "neighbor." A chance encounter somewhere along the deserted 18-mile road between Jerusalem and Jericho led the Samaritan to take on an unexpected burden-- even though this would slow him down, making him an easy target for bandits. Unlike the callous travelers who passed-by without stopping, the Samaritan responded in love to the wounded man, becoming his companion in the wilderness while mediating the very compassion and mercy of God.
- Who are the unlikely "neighbors" you have encountered in life and how have you responded to their needs?
- What "neighbors" along the way have assisted YOU on your own journey through life?
- Are there any groups of people or types of people that you would have a hard time accepting as your "neighbors"?
- Have there been any "Good Samaritans" in your life that you still need to thank and acknowledge?